Iowa stormed back from a 20-point halftime halftime deficit to defeat the Gardner-Webb Running Bulldogs Saturday night at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The Hawkeyes started sluggishly, especially from the field; Iowa shot just 5-for-25 in the first half and went through a 5:40 scoring drought late in the half. They went to the half down 38-18, but came storming out in the second half, cutting the deficit in half in four minutes and tying the game at 42 with ten minutes left to play. From there, it was all elementary: Iowa had the talent advantage and the momentum, and the Hawkeyes' first half shooting woes were long forgotten. Just after the 6:00 mark, Roy Devyn Marble recorded back-to-back steals for layups to give Iowa a four-point advantage. The Hawkeyes never trailed again, methodically extending the lead throughout the remainder of the game, and a pair of late free throws by Aaron White gave them their final margin of victory. After shooting 20% in the first half, Iowa shot 50% from the field in the second; after missing eight three-point attempts in the first half, Iowa went 6/13 from behind the arc in the second. It was a remarkable change in performance.
The comeback is the story of the game, but this game, more than any other, showed the immediate and immense value of Adam Woodbury. The 7'1" freshman center played just 19 minutes, having picked up a second foul with 11:50 left in the half. In those 19 minutes, he scored 12 points on 5/6 shooting from the field, grabbed eight rebounds, blocked a shot, recorded a pair of steals, and altered any number of Gardner-Webb shots inside the lane. More telling is what happened when he wasn't in the game. When Woodbury left the game in foul trouble, Iowa was down 11-8. In those 12 minutes he was absent, Gardner-Webb outscored Iowa 27-10. They dominated the interior, out-rebounding Iowa 14-11 (for the game, Iowa led on the boards by five) and was even with Iowa on the offensive boards despite making every shot in sight. With Woodbury out and Gabe Olaseni ineffective (he played just four minutes), Iowa couldn't stop an already-hot Gardner-Webb from getting to the basket, and couldn't sell out while defending the perimeter.
That's not to say that Woodbury was solely responsible for the Iowa win. Forward Zach McCabe provided the emotional impetus for the Hawkeye comeback. McCabe scored just eight points on 2/10 shooting, but grabbed six rebounds, blocked two shots, and added three assists for good measure. More importantly, he played with his usual fire but managed to stay out of foul trouble on a night where the refs were calling everything tightly. His tenacity aggravated the Bulldogs early in the second half, causing Gardner-Webb to make the same careless errors that Iowa had made in the first half.
Aaron White scored 13 and grabbed 10 rebounds, maintaining production on a night where he struggled shooting from the field and the free throw line. Josh Oglesby, who had made just one of his first thirteen three-point attempts this season, knocked down three treys in the second half and finished with 13 points off the bench. Roy Marble and Mike Gessel struggled against Gardner-Webb's zone defense, only further emphasizing the necessity for scoring in the paint. And Eric May is starting to fill an essential role as a defensive stopper.
Iowa left for Cancun this morning, where they'll face Western Kentucky Tuesday and either Wichita State or DePaul Wednesday, with Virginia Tech waiting when they come back. All three opponents, whoever they may be, will far surpass the level of Iowa's first four games. But the Hawkeyes have now shown they can win dirty, they can blow past a weaker team, and they can stage a rally without McCaffery screaming in their ears. They've passed the preliminaries. It's time to see how they do with the midterms.